One-time Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee and lawmaker Peter Apo is returning to the position where his political career began three decades ago.
Apo pulled off an upset yesterday, wresting OHA’s Oahu trustee seat from one-term incumbent Walter Meheula Heen.
Apo, 71, a cultural tourism consultant, was leading Heen by more than 24,000 votes in the third printout. Heen, 82, was first elected a trustee four years ago.
A member of OHA’s first board from 1980 to 1982, Apo went on to 12 years in the state House representing the area from Makaha to Waianae, and North Kauai.
Both Apo and Heen said they were surprised by the results.
Apo said he believes he struck a nerve by insisting that OHA should try to reach out not just to native Hawaiians, but to all Hawaii residents. "I was talking about the need to make Hawaii whole," Apo said.
"There’s this abiding tension between Hawaiians and the rest of the community, and it’s an institutional tension, not personal," Apo said. "And people know that and they feel it. And so I said, ‘We’ve gotta resolve a lot of issues because we need to move forward together.’"
Apo’s slogan was "Hawaii loa, ku like ka kou," or "All Hawaii stands together," Apo said. The phrase was made popular by Hawaiian songwriter Liko Martin, whose song by the same name has been a rallying cry for the Hawaiian sovereignty movement.
Apo said he also thought he made better use of social media, placing detailed explanations of his positions on his Web page.
A longtime stalwart in the Democratic Party, Heen said he will stay active in politics but added, "I don’t think I’ll run for office anymore."
Heen said that his biggest accomplishment on the board was to instill in his colleagues the need for fiscal responsibility and to keep the corpus of OHA’s multimillion-dollar trust whole.
Four other incumbent trustees appeared to be heading toward re-election last night.
Trustees Rowena M.N. Akana, John Waihe’e IV and Oswald Stender were leading the pack in the "pick three" at-large seats for which there are no residency requirements.
There were nine people running, but none of the other six appeared within striking distance of the incumbents.
Maui Trustee Boyd Poki Mossman, who was also on the ballot, had no challengers and will return to his seat.